Pitcher Brad Keller’s Thursday began with the Cincinnati Reds selecting him fifth overall in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Pitcher Burch Smith was taken sixth overall by the New York Mets. Then they became Kansas City Royals.
The Royals acquired both right-handers in trades for a player to be named/cash considerations.
As Rule 5 draft picks, Keller and Smith must stay at the major league level for the entire 2018 season or else be offered back to their respective clubs.
Keller, 22, was an eighth-round draft pick by the Diamondbacks in 2013. Rated as the No. 7 prospect in the Arizona organization by MLB.com entering the 2017 season, he made 26 starts at Double-A Jackson and tied for seventh in the Southern League with 10 victories and tied for 10th with 111 strikeouts.
Smith, 27, got a taste of the majors in 2013 with the Padres, who selected him in the 14th round of the 2011 draft. He missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery. He pitched in 2017 in the Tampa Bay organization, going 5-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) with the Gulf Coast Rays (Rookie), Charlotte (A-Advanced) and Triple-A Durham.
The Royals also selected right-handed pitcher Daniel Duarte in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Duarte, 21, went 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA in the Mexican League last season.